Soft plastic baits in every conceivable color have displaced hair jigs in the tackle boxes of most smallmouth bass anglers. Soft plastics are widely available and catch smallmouth everywhere they swim. But well-tied hair jigs possess a solid profile, range of textures, and subtle breathing movement that plastic baits can’t match. They remain one of the most versatile and effective lures for smallmouths in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
Rod: 6 1/2- to 7 1/2-foot medium-power fast-action spinning rod
Reel: medium-capacity spinning reel
Line: 6- to 10-pound-test mono, or 10-pound Berkley Fireline
In lakes, use minnow-imitating jigs on deep flats or along the edge of rock bars. Cast and stop the jig just above the water, letting it drop on a fairly tight line, with the rod tip dropping to 9 o’clock. As the jig ticks bottom, lift the rod toward 11 o’clock, pause, and follow it back to bottom.
Vary the speed of the retrieve and the speed of the lift, depending on the mood of the fish. To imitate crayfish, use a brown or black pattern with a small, thin strip of pork, like one leg from an Uncle Josh U-2 pork eel. Or, use a similar plastic trailer. Crawl, hop, or bounce the jig across rocks and gravel.
Slowly raise the rod tip from 9 to 11 o’clock and reel in slack line as you move the tip back down to 9 o’clock. Some anglers prefer to move the rod parallel to the water, which offers less opportunity to lift the jig far above the bottom.
Arky-style head (wood) — Deener’s Jigs & Things Fox Hair Jig
Standup-style head (gravel and scattered rock) — Bull Dog Hair Jig
Football head (gravel and scattered rock) — Ray Price Finesse Jig
Aspirin head (broken rock or boulders) — Bass ‘N Bait Snakie Maxie
Bullet head (swimming retrieves) — Bert’s Threadfin Shad
Eye-in-nose bullet head (weeds) — Andy’s Penetrator